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Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

Who Fears Death (edition 2010)

by Nnedi Okorafor

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Title:Who Fears Death
Authors:Nnedi Okorafor
Collections:Read but unowned

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Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

  1. 20
    Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson (PhoenixFalls)
  2. 31
    The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin (electronicmemory)
    electronicmemory: Who Fears Death is post-apocalyptic futuristic fantasy and The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms draws from classical sword and sorcery, but both are excellent novels about heroines who have found themselves beset and gifted (or possibly cursed) by powers beyond reckoning, while caught up in a political and supernatural power struggle that spans generations and eventually time itself.… (more)

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» See also 88 mentions

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Ever since finishing it, I've been wondering about the theme of this book, and for me, it came down to religion. This was mostly subtext... but the fact that whether or not the Great Book was re-written was so relevant- albeit not usually a conscious concern- leads me to this conclusion- with ramifications for many of our current world's "Great Books".

But- while the ideas woven into this novel are chewy and ones I will be thinking on for a long time- mostly when reading it's a powerful and beautifully written book about a reality that is sometimes lovely, and sometimes extremely harsh.

The societies and magical systems do not have anything in common with the usual fantasy tropes- that drew me in. The cultures were well-thought-out, too, in both their support and their harshness.

The characters- well, they worked really well in the story, but to me they did npt seem fully rounded. Perhaps this was inevitable given the first-person narrative, where our narrator was preoccupied with things other than drawing her companions as fully-formed characters- especially given her youth. However, while some of the tertiary characters felt very alive to me, the secondary ones were less successful.

Nonetheless- this is a fascinating, though sometimes brutal- fantasy novel that is not at all like the usual ones. I highly recommend it for the adventurous fantasy reader. ( )
  cissa | Sep 18, 2014 |
There is a lot to like in this book. I really enjoyed the perspective and the subject matter. Nnedi Okorafor uses a post-apocalpytic Sudan as a setting to reveal some very powerful observations about the way we treat each other.

Highly recommended. ( )
  nnschiller | Sep 18, 2014 |
I wanted to like this but....so-o-o violent. And paced like a screenplay, one bloodbath after another. Not likely to enlighten anybody who may misguidedly think that Africa and dystopia are already synonymous. ( )
  CSRodgers | May 3, 2014 |
Who Fears Death is a fantasy novel set in a post-apocalyptic Africa. It is a well developed world where there are three main tribes subsisting in the desert. Magic or “juju” is used by several in this land where there is some technology, left over computers. There are sorcerers and a few sorceresses who practice strong magic. It is an elaborate world that Okorafor creates.

This is a book that raises many issues. Racism is one theme that is repeatedly explored. There are two warring tribes, the Nuru and Okeke, who are separated as the ruling class and slaves. The Nuru begin a process of genocide against the Okeke and extreme violence follows. Children from Okeke and Nuru parents are considered a separate race, Ewu, and are looked down upon and treated poorly by everyone. The protagonist, Onyesonwu, is a child resulting from the violent rape of her Okeke mother by a Nuru man. Onyesonwu and another Ewu, Mwita, are treated as outcasts and are both verbally and physically assaulted due to their different looks. Differences in the physical appearance of each in the tribes is outlined in much detail by Okorafor.

The status of women is another issue raised by this book. Women are not treated with the same equality as men. If an Okeke woman is raped and becomes pregnant her husband leaves her. The woman is left alone with the pain and shame. Old rituals are also performed. The prime one being the “Eleventh Year Rite” in which the girls undertake genital mutilation and magic is practiced on them that causes them to have pain whenever they have sexual relations. Once again much responsibility and shame is placed on the woman’s shoulders.

Onyesonwu is a character that challenges the societal conventions. Though she faces many struggles, she is ultimately an extremely powerful and strong character. The book is written in first person from the perspective on Onyesonwu and we get to follow her as she grows and makes her way through the world. I found this narrative style very easy to read and the book was able to continually capture my attention and pull me into it. Onyesonwu is a very sympathetic and generally likable character, though at times you want to scold her for doing and saying some of the things she does. All of the characters were written in such a way that each elicits specific emotions from the reader.

Using a fantasy/post-apocalyptic world as a means to showcase how societies can treat others is a brilliant touch by Okorafor. Even without the messages and issues that are faced by the protagonist and others this is a remarkable tale. The fact that rape, genital mutilation, status of women, and racism are all touched upon in this book make it even more valuable. The important messages are provided in an unusual and magical setting that makes reading the book extremely enjoyable.

I am personally a sucker for books where magic plays a role and there are strong female protagonists so this book definitely hits the spot. It is a beautifully written and well constructed tome that provides a bit of insight in how people behave. I would recommend this for anyone to read regardless of whether or not they are a fan of fantasy.

My review can also be found here
  dragonflyy419 | Feb 6, 2014 |
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"Dear friends, are you afraid of death?" - Patrice Lumumba, first and only elected Prime Minister of the Republic of the Congo
To my amazing father, Dr. Godwin Sunday Daniel Okoroafor, M.D., F.A.C.S. (1940-2004).
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My life fell apart when I was sixteen.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Well-known for young adult novels (The Shadow Speaks; Zahrah the Windseeker), Okorafor sets this emotionally fraught tale in postapocalyptic Saharan Africa. The young sorceress Onyesonwu—whose name means Who fears death?—was born Ewu, bearing a mixture of her mother's features and those of the man who raped her mother and left her for dead in the desert. As Onyesonwu grows into her powers, it becomes clear that her fate is mingled with the fate of her people, the oppressed Okeke, and that to achieve her destiny, she must die. Okorafor examines a host of evils in her chillingly realistic tale—gender and racial inequality share top billing, along with female genital mutilation and complacency in the face of destructive tradition—and winds these disparate concepts together into a fantastical, magical blend of grand storytelling.
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Born into post-apocalyptic Africa to a mother who was raped after the slaughter of her entire tribe, Onyesonwu is tutored by a shaman and discovers that her magical destiny is to end the genocide of her people.

(summary from another edition)

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